I wasn’t even 20 portraits in before my eyes had welled up.
Hold Still, a digital photographic exhibition put together by The Duchess of Cambridge and the National Portrait Gallery, has given us a glimpse of hope in a dark time. Of strength and spirit and how we came together while we stayed apart. In my opinion, this may be one of the most important projects the Duchess of Cambridge has worked on since becoming a member of the Royal Family.
As Kate described it, “Hold Still aims to capture a portrait of the nation, the spirit of the nation, what everyone is going through at this time. Photographs reflecting resilience, bravery, kindness – all those things that people are experiencing.”
In total, 31,598 people ranging in age from four to 75 submitted portraits earlier this summer and, from that, 100 images were chosen for a special exhibition.
An elderly man pressing his hand against a window, the closest he’d been in weeks—and the closest he would ever be again—to touching his daughter’s hand.
Mila, a little girl battling cancer, kissing the window as her father beams at her from outside.
A healthcare worker, face worn from wearing PPE all day, soldiering on. Another was photographed at the end of a shift. And another with a smile drawn on his face covering. One more of those amazing people who kept so many going in those hardest days is shown, eating a meal during a rare break.
Captain Sir Tom Moore, 100, thumbs up, lapping his garden to raise money for the NHS. Tom Hudgell, 5, walking 10km on new prosthetic limbs to raise money for Evelina London.
Amelia dressed up as a nurse in honour of the nurses in her life. Florence doing the same.
Painting rainbows on windows. Clapping for carers. Grandparents and grandchildren separated but still on each others’ minds. Weddings. Funerals. Births. Deaths.
Kate encouraged us to capture the resilience that comes with months of restrictions and lockdowns. To focus on the small moments; the sad moments; the happy moments; the endless moments; the moments that pass in the blink of an eye. To see the helpers and the heroes; to share glimpses into our new normal; to notice the small acts of kindness that propel us forward.
I think it’s worth noting that we didn’t even see Kate yesterday during Hold Still’s reveal. This moment wasn’t about Kate. It was about the portraits and the stories behind them. It was about all of us.
Hold Still reflects our reality. It forces us to reckon with our shared experience. This is life right now. It’s hard, but together, we’ll make it through. And the Duchess of Cambridge has helped ensure that, in years to come, others get some understanding of what we now call reality and, perhaps, find inspiration there to face their own challenges.